Gigabyte GA-Z77X-UD3H Review (Page 2 of 13)

Page 2 - Bundle, Chipset, BIOS

Upon opening the box, a surprisingly simple bundle accompanies the Gigabyte GA-Z77X-UD3H from the factory. Basically, everything you see in the photo above is everything you will get. Besides the motherboard itself, you will receive four SATA cables, one SLI bridge, a rear I/O shield, manual, installation guide, driver/software DVD, and that's it. Well, plus a Gigabyte sticker for what it is worth, haha. This is by far the least amount of accessories I have ever seen out of a motherboard retail package, but since this is a mainstream performance product, you really can't expect too much. To be honest, I don't actually use 90% of the stuff that comes with high end motherboards anyway, and for $150 at press time, let's cut Gigabyte some slack, shall we?

Six new chipsets designed for Ivy Bridge processors are available at press time, including the Z77, Z75, H77, Q77, Q75, and B75. Previous generation chipsets such as P67 and Z68 can support Ivy Bridge, given a proper BIOS update is available from your motherboard manufacturer. All 7-series chipsets are backwards compatible with Sandy Bridge CPUs. Codenamed Panther Point, the Gigabyte GA-Z77X-UD3H features the enthusiast Z77 chipset, as the motherboard name suggests. Branching off the processor are sixteen available PCI Express 3.0 lanes, and can be set to either 1x16, 2x8, or 1x8/1x4 plus a Thunderbolt port, as shown in the block diagram above. The Platform Controller Hub provides eight PCI Express 2.0 lanes. Ivy Bridge CPUs also has native support for a pair of dual channel DDR3-1600 RAM slots, and can scale up to DDR3-2800 speeds. We are also happy to finally see native support for up to four USB 3.0 ports (Previous chipsets had USB 3.0 support only via a third party controller) and two SATA 6Gb/s ports for your ballin' SSDs. Four additional SATA 3Gb/s ports are provided for everything else. The rated TDP for all Panther Point chipsets is 6.7W. Of course, the actual number of ports available on your motherboard is dependent on the manufacturer and model.

Ahh, the UEFI BIOS. With the GA-Z77X-UD3H, Gigabyte finally got ship a motherboard with a graphical user interface setup screen like all other major manufacturers. What is different is the new 3D BIOS, which is an especially cool feature in my personal opinion. Presented with an image of the motherboard, the user can click on different regions assisted by a pop-up activated on hover to configure corresponding settings. This presents a very visual way of tuning your PC, and it really does a great job at toning down the intimidation upon people who are new to the scene. Of course, as a traditional enthusiast, I am more inclined to pop back into Advanced Mode, so I will spend a little more time discussing that.

Back to Advanced Mode, at first glance, users who are familiar with American Megatrends BIOS will know this is just a fancy GUI version we have become so familiar with. Organized into an array of tabs at the top, the layout logic is strikingly similar to everything we have seen in the past. The difference is, of course, now you get all the eye candy and mouse support. If you have used ASUS motherboards before, then it is pretty much the same thing, but with a different selection of colors and icons.

If you have used Gigabyte products in the past, you will be quite familiar with the Motherboard Intelligent Tweaker, as shown in our screenshot above (Yes, BIOS screenshots is a real feature now). It further divides into six more sections. These sections are labeled M.I.T Current Status, Advanced Frequency Settings, Advanced Memory Settings, Advanced Voltage Settings, PC Health Status, and Miscellaneous Settings, respectively. It should be generally clear what the kind of settings are listed under each section, but I will go into these sections in detail in just a moment. Furthermore, we can see at the bottom section of the Motherboard Intelligent Tweaker screen the BIOS version, base clock frequency, memory frequency, total memory size, CPU surface temperature, Vcore, and DRAM voltage -- right from the start. I found this particularly handy and convenient during my overclocking runs.

The M.I.T Current Status screen provides more detailed information with regards to overclocking and voltage. Where you will only find quick data such as BCLK, CPU frequency, and CPU/RAM voltage in the previous page as aforementioned, here you will find information like the CPU name, CPUID, CPU update revision, Turbo/Non-Turbo multiplier and frequency of each core, temperature of each CPU core, memory size in each DIMM, as well as current latency settings for each channel of memory. Again, I found this particularly handy while executing overclocking procedures -- and the fact that everything is laid out in organized tables on one screen is very convenient.

The Advanced Frequency Settings screen permits the user to adjust processor settings. The user can adjust the CPU clock ratio and BCLK frequency by either hitting the "+" or "-" key on their keyboard to increase or decrease the value, or enter the number directly -- where the base clock can be adjusted in 0.01MHz increments for fine tuning. Adjusting the memory ratio can be done by going through the same procedure as well. Under the Advanced CPU Core Features section are options for enabling or disabling features such as Turbo Mode, SpeedStep, and enabled cores. It is also possible to select XMP profiles from the Advanced Frequency Settings screen as well.

The Advanced Memory Settings screen, as its name suggests, has memory setting options that the user can adjust. You can select XMP profiles in addition to the menu under Advanced Frequency Settings as aforementioned, but here you will also find quick data relating to memory voltage in addition to memory frequency. Timing settings for each channel can be adjusted under their respective timing settings screens, with default latencies in a static column and current/future settings in an adjustable column. Adjusting timing settings involves a direct integer input from the use, so you won't need to scroll through a long list of numbers to find what you need.

The last three Motherboard Intelligent Tweaker screens I will cover in detail are the ones related to voltage control, as shown in our images above. Again, you will find an organized table with a column for voltage type, current values, and the newly adjusted value. Voltage can be changed by entering a value directly, or by incrementing by pressing the "+" or "-" button on your keyboard. When the desired number is entered directly, the Z77X-UD3H will take what you have entered, and round to the nearest possible number. The only thing I found annoying is you cannot bring up a menu to see the range of allowed values. Also, unlike the past, voltages treading into the dangerous territory will not be signified by a color change in the text, which is definitely a step back.

The following voltage ranges and increments are allowed:

CPU Vcore 0.800V to 1.900V @ 0.005V increments
CPU VTT 0.800V to 1.700V @ 0.005V increments
CPU PLL 1.200V to 2.200V @ 0.005V increments
IMC 0.715V to 1.400V @ 0.005V increments
GFX Core up to +0.350V @ 0.005V increments
DRAM 1.100V to 2.100 @ 0.005V increments
Data TX dependent on DRAM @ 0.005V increments
DRAM Termination dependent on DRAM @ 0.004V increments
Data Reference dependent on DRAM @ 0.004V increments
Address Reference dependent on DRAM @ 0.004V increments

The Q-Flash function is an integrated feature for the user to flash their BIOS safely and easily. You can update from any FAT16 or FAT32 formatted device, such as your USB flash drive. My motherboard came with the F5 BIOS, and I have updated it to F11 BIOS without any issues at all. My only complaint is out of the box, even the Intel USB 3.0 ports at the back is a bit wonky for keyboard and mouse use. Since there are no USB 2.0 ports at the back, I had to plug them into my case's USB 2.0 ports in order to get things started. Other than this slightly bumpy start, overall, the usage experience of Gigabyte's UEFI BIOS is good. However, the mouse input lag is very noticeable. Screen transitions are also too rough compared to the smooth animation seen on ASUS and Intel products. This is definitely something Gigabyte can work on for future updates.

Page Index
1. Introduction, Features, and Specifications
2. Bundle, Chipset, BIOS
3. A Closer Look, Board Layout, Test System
4. Benchmark: AIDA64 CPU
5. Benchmark: AIDA64 FPU
6. Benchmark: AIDA64 Memory
7. Benchmark: BAPCo SYSMark 2012
8. Benchmark: PCMark 7
9. Benchmark: 3DMark 11
10. Benchmark: PassMark PerformanceTest 7.0
11. Benchmark: SuperPI 1M, Cinebench R11.5
12. Onboard Sound Frequency Analysis
13. Overclocking and Conclusion